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Derrick Mahone/Douglas County Sentinel Lithia Springs coach J.W. Cantrell has been relying on his senior leadership to help carry the team during the early part of the season.

When Lithia Springs got down by as many as 19 points to Alexander in last week’s PC Thanksgiving Tournament, coach J.W. Cantrell and his team didn’t panic.

In fact, Cantrell says he didn’t make the traditional timeout call to settle his team down.

With an experience group, which includes nine seniors, Cantrell is confident in his team’s poise and ability.

It seemed to work as the Lions made a comeback to win the game 62-59 at Paulding County High.

The Lions would defeat host Paulding County 82-73 to win the tournament and start the season with a 5-0 record and 1-0 in Region 6-AAAAA after Tuesday’s win at Carver-Atlanta.

“I’m very pleased at the early showing of our basketball team,” Cantrell said. “I think everybody appears to be on the same page and they are hungry to win.”

The Lions are coming off a 15-12 season but finished fourth in Region 6-AAAAA and advanced to the first round of the state tournament. Although they put up a “good fight” against powerhouse Buford, the Lions lost 75-63 on the road to the eventual state champions.

Cantrell believes that taste of success was what his team needed to jumpstart into this season.

Lithia Springs is a strong contender for the region title this season.

Lithia Springs hasn’t won a region title since the 2011-12 season.

“The kids are definitely hungry,” Cantrell said. “We feel we are one of the top teams in Class AAAAA. If not, I would like to see that list.”

Heading into Tuesday’s contest, Lithia Springs was averaging 72 points per game while giving up an average of 57 points. Cantrell said that he has had a different leader each game as far as scoring.

The Lions graduated leading scorer and Douglas County Sentinel Player of the Year Ceaunte Zachery. However, second leading scorer Anthony Hardy returned as a solid freshmen season where he averaged 8.9 points and 3.1 assists.

Forward Terry Dew was the only other returning starter from a year ago, but several players logged a lot of minutes in the Lions’ fast-pace scheme.

“The big thing is that we are pretty balanced,” he said. “We just don’t count on one player to carry us. If someone is having an off night, we have someone else to step up.”

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